After listening to me talk about feeling like I was settling for less than I deserved, my brother sent me a copy of Never Split the Difference. He had taken a masterclass based on the principles outlined in the book and thought it would give me some new tools to negotiate my way to more fulfillment.
After devouring the book in a few hours, my brother was right. There are a lot of good strategies outlined in this Wall Street Journal bestselling manifesto. Voss’ experiences as a hostage negotiator with the FBI lend credibility to the advice he gives.
One of the most insightful takeaways is in the book’s title. Voss argues that splitting the difference, or compromising, often leads to terrible outcomes. This simple idea was very powerful for me. People, especially women, are often conditioned to look for the middle ground when negotiating at work and in their personal lives. Immediately jumping to find a compromise is something I’ve done throughout my life and career. As Voss points out and backs up with examples, this is almost never a good strategy, especially when the stakes are high. He makes the point that in a hostage negotiation situation with four hostages, you would never consider settling for the release of two hostages.
His definition of the three different types of yeses you can get during a negotiation, and which type you have to get to be successful, was also informative. I also appreciated his unexpected advice on striving for a no in negotiation. As Voss says, “No” has a lot of skills.” Hearing the word no “allows the real issues to be brought forth” and it gives the person you are negotiating with a sense of control.
Like most personal development books, not all of the advice and tips will be a good fit for every personality or situation. For me, the parts on mirroring and tactical empathy sometimes veered into the manipulative territory, which is fine when negotiating with someone who has taken hostages, but crosses a line when negotiating with friends and loved ones.
Overall, this book is a fast, engaging read that you can consume in a weekend if you need a quick crash course in negotiating.